O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.
How shall I repay the Lord
for all the benefits he has given to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
O Lord, I am your servant,
your servant, the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call upon the name of the Lord.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
When many of the disciples heard Jesus, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’
This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
We are travelling through difficult and challenging times. For the last year we have had to spend much time reflecting upon the learning and the wisdom of medical professionals, scientists and politicians. Our whole way of life has had to change. Those who have resisted that change have simply added an increasing burden of anxiety to their daily lives. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
In our rural communities there is, as in almost all rural communities, a sense of calm and gentle routine. Many have been able to journey through the same daily, weekly, monthly and annual routines for a very long time. Then came the undeniable and unstoppable challenges of the last year, challenges that necessitated a significant change in routine and outlook. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
The sixth chapter of St John’s Gospel, and yesterday’s honouring of our patron saint, have brought us face to face with ‘difficult teaching’. We have been challenged to look again at our comfortable lifestyles and reconsider how we live out our lives. We have been challenged to think again about how tomorrow will look because, if we are to follow the path of Jesus Christ, it will be different. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?
To follow Jesus Christ is not a matter of turning up in a big medieval building on an occasional basis that is largely dictated by social convenience. To follow Jesus Christ is about real commitment to living a self-sacrificial life of love and service for all. To follow Jesus Christ is about taking an active role in turning the spotlight away from ourselves and on to those who are in need of love and care. Is there any wonder that in today’s reading we hear of those who turned back and no longer went about with him?
As we journey through this season of Easter we should be overflowing with enthusiasm and zeal; we should be making our faith the most important thing in our lives; and we should be demonstrating our faith in all that we say and do. Is that the place where you will be found today? Or, have you dug a bunker of nostalgia and self-pity in which you are waiting for the return of the ‘good old days’ that never really existed but in which you were able to nestle and hide. As Jesus said: This teaching is difficult. Can you accept it? Are you able to join the disciples in proclaiming Jesus as the Holy One of God in all you say and do?
Prayers of Intercession
In the life of the Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.
Keep the Church faithful in word and sacrament to the gospel entrusted to her. Make her ministers and her people worthy of the service to which they have been called by the Father.
Bring the light of the Spirit into the world where many trust only in the flesh and walk in darkness. Bless those who teach and all those who learn, that the words of truth may be known to all.
Grant that we shall never betray, by word or deed, the faith which we profess. Empower us an examples of love to those whose lives touch our own. Bless all in this community who are charged with the guidance of others, that they may speak in truth and live according to their teaching.
We pray for those who have lost their faith, who have turned away from the path which they once followed. Bring them back, to hear and believe again the words of eternal life.
Receive in mercy the souls of the departed who have walked with their Lord through this world. Bring them to eternal life in heaven where he has ascended.
We offer our prayers through Christ, the Holy One of God.
Prayer for the week
Eternal God, in whom is all our hope
in life, in death, and to all eternity;
grant that, rejoicing in the eternal life
which is ours in Christ,
we may face whatever the future holds in store for us
calm and unafraid,
always confident that neither death nor life
can part us from your love in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Lord of all, of Church and Kingdom,
in an age of change and doubt,
keep us faithful to the gospel,
help us work your purpose out.
Here, in this day’s dedication,
all we have to give, receive:
we, who cannot live without you,
we adore you! We believe!
Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)